TT Talk - Crime is alive and well

TT Club's experience is that theft remains firmly in the top five claims causes, accounting for about 13% by number and value over the last five years. Much recent attention has been focused on the emerging risk of cybercrime, as internet capabilities are increasingly used to identify, track and intercept cargo. However, case studies abound for the more traditional vulnerabilities, even if potentially aided by electronic means.

These days it may not be entirely accurate to focus on a 'peak' season in cargo movements, but it is certainly timely to reflect on the state of freight crime, whether or not 'Black Friday' (the day after US Thanksgiving) presents a particular exposure globally, not least as the risks around this retail event certainly extend to other geographies.

Cargo type trends

Unsurprisingly, information published by others concerned with freight security, such as Freight Watch International (FWI), corroborate in large measure the Club's findings concerning the continuing exposure to 'traditional' thefts, while adding some interesting colour to the trends. For example, FWI identify that food and drink cargoes are becoming more exposed to theft, and particularly, it would seem, in winter months when perishable cargo is not quite so vulnerable. FWI describes the attractiveness to thieves of such lower specified cargo types in the following way: 'With no unique serialization to hinder the reselling of these products, criminals will continue to weigh the pros of easy obtainability and liquidation against the cons of perishability and medium-value density as they determine where to focus their efforts'. However, as expected, the usual electronics, clothing and pharmaceuticals also remain attractive to criminals.

Essentially, any goods that can with relative ease be resold are seen as fair game. Where the supply chain has been strengthened in relation to security, criminals will inevitably seek to exploit new opportunities. Nevertheless, attention to the basics in security apply regardless of cargo type. The most vulnerable part of the supply chain is whilst cargo is in transit, although standard site security measures continue to prove critical to reduce theft.

"any goods that can with relative ease be resold are seen as fair game"

Assess your risk

Many thefts are by nature opportunistic, targeting unsecured parking areas and soft-sided trailers. FWI report that there is a growing willingness to use violence against drivers, although still stating that many cases involve the driver directly or indirectly. TT Club has frequently raised this exposure, exacerbated during peak seasons where there may be a limit of available truckers, advising that due diligence in subcontractor selection and control is a significant mitigation. The elevated risk at this time of year should be highlighted to all personnel, particularly those closely involved in booking and subcontracting freight movements. Specifically, train personnel to be alert to identify and escalate such issues through your organisation as appropriate. Encourage personnel to ask questions where activity or requests are made beyond what could be considered the normal course of business.

Site security measures should not be neglected. While CCTV and fencing may seem passé, properly used their value is considerable. A recent case involving the theft of a number of trailers from a single large facility illustrates certain risks well. Organised criminals broke through the chain link fencing under cover of darkness and avoided camera and guard detection whilst removing the trucks. Notwithstanding the initial success, rapid action by the operator and tenacious law enforcement was able to track the majority of the stolen goods and apprehend a number of suspects.

While further post-incident investigations are continuing, the case is a sober reminder to ensure that CCTV is fully operational and actively monitored, together with a review of guard force contracting arrangements. While there is no evidence in this case, guards have been found to be a weak link, being poorly paid, having unsociable hours and often lower level of skills and education. As ever, part of an effective management of these risks requires the rigorous implementation of procedures to identify, investigate, report and address unauthorised acts by anyone who is reasonably accessing the site, including guards, visitors and third parties.

In the same way as treating anything that is identified as unusual with a reasonable level of suspicion, so being deliberately unpredictable may also be part of your armoury. Criminals will go to any lengths to track how you do things; outwit them by being both careful and considered.

"In the same way as treating anything that is identified as unusual with a reasonable level of suspicion, so being deliberately unpredictable may also be part of your armoury"

We hope that you have found the above interesting. If you would like further information, or have any comments, please email us, or take this opportunity to forward to any colleagues who you may feel would be interested.

We look forward to hearing from you.

Peregrine Storrs-Fox

Risk Management Director, TT Club

Staff Author

TT Club